THE MINISTRY OF SPORT and Minister Anil Roberts have come in for condemnation following a decision not to assist the senior national football team with its participation in the 2012 Digicel Caribbean Cup. But Roberts also has his supporters, among them former national captain Anthony Rougier.
Through Permanent Secretary Ashwin Creed, the Sport Ministry on Tuesday relayed a decision to turn down a request by the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation (TTFF) for $423,218 in funding to cover airfares and allowances for the senior national football team to participate in the first round of the Caribbean Cup. The Caribbean Football Union (CFU) would have covered the other costs--providing housing for 25 players and four officials.
The Soca Warriors are due to play French Guiana on October 10 in Basseterre, Anguilla two days later, and hosts St Kitts-Nevis on October 14.
Creed stated that the Ministry was focusing on development, and would not be funding the national senior footballers, based on what he described as "the abysmal performance of the senior team".
"The problem is that the Minister (Roberts) is still acting like a coach. He has had a fall out with cricket, athletics and swimming, because he wants to dominate all sporting bodies. It is now football's turn," said former national player Ken Butcher. "What the sport organisations have to do is get together and have a meeting with the Minister to thrash things out. If he refuses to meet them, then seek a meeting with the Prime Minister. What you have is these young players being developed, and when its time to express themselves they cannot. Playing Caribbean Cup football also develops a young footballer."
"It is sad and depressing," said former T&T captain Clayton Morris. "Imagine refusing to fund the national team in a year where we won an Olympic gold medal for the first time since 1976. I played for the national team for 12 years, and you would think that it would be better now for the present players. Playing in the Caribbean Cup is a stepping stone to the World Cup. You can't just drop the senior team and talk about development. What you have to do is build with young players and have some of the senior players around to develop and encourage the others, like what Leroy Spann and Earl Carter did for us."
Brian Williams, a former T&T standout and coach of the 2001 national under-20 team, concurred.
"You must measure yourself regionally before you measure yourself on a bigger international scale. Caribbean Cup is a very important bench mark for young footballers to measure themselves. The Ministry of Sport say they are not funding football. Until when? For what reason? I have been speaking with some of my former playing colleagues and we are all very concerned. I don't have all the facts, but I want to know why the Ministry is not funding football. I believe that it is as a result of vindictiveness, and football is the one suffering."
Fighting in Roberts' corner was former England-based professional, Rougier, who thinks that a break from competition might be good in the long run.
"I am not saying don't help. But there are problems that need to be fixed. Let us take a break and solve the problems. I don't think the Minister wants to make football fail."